church of Christ history Traces of the Kingdom -
A history of the church of God
....."knowing that I am set
for the defence of the gospel."
At one time owning a Bible was illegal
for the ordinary person, believing it was worse, often resulting in torture and
death! Bibles were copied and shared with brethren, they could not be purchased
so the only way to have one was to copy the scriptures illegally from a friend.
This way for centuries the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, were shared in the
vernacular language until the age of printing, and then later, the Reformation.
The church of Christ existed prior to the Reformation and were the only people
to have the Bible except the Roman Catholic Church who kept it hidden. These
pre-Reformation Bibles were the basis for Tyndale's printed English translations
(1526 updated in 1530) and from there, the basis for the King James Bible
(1611). In 2011 the Anglican Church made much about the King James Bible, but
they were amiss in not giving credit to Tyndale, a member of the Lord's Church
and also forgot to mention they too at one time would burn a person for owning
the Bible. This web-site is a history of those people who kept the Bible alive
during the Dark to Middle Ages and later, brethren who called themselves - The
Church of Christ.
From about 1000 AD in
England, Christians called by their enemies derogatory terms such as Waldensian, Lollard,
Pelagian and Anabaptist, who baptised believers for the
remission of sins by immersion upon confession, have been active in Great
Britain and even earlier in Europe. They called themselves Christians and the
church - The Church of Christ, having met continuously to join in fellowship with the Restoration Movement in the 1840s. The first
Church of Christ came into being
on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection.
The churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) do
not follow the Roman Gospel which originated in paganism, several hundred years
after the first church of Christ assembled in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost
after the Resurrection, who followed the Jerusalem Gospel. It is an error to
confuse the churches of Christ with the Protestant Reformation, they are not
Reformers but restorationists, who hold to the Word of God in all maters of
faith and practice. For the pre-Reformation Roman Catholics it was sin, the
reformation Anglicans, Protestants, Lutherans, Zwinglian, Calvinist and Roman
Catholics all held that the churches of Christ were in sin, and through
persecution many Christians died at the hands of the Reformers and Roman
Catholics - there was nowhere to flee, except prayer. The Reformers and Roman
Catholics held to the alliance of Church and State and denied Free-Will, the
churches of Christ opposed this, confirming Free-Will and separation of Church
and State, which made them criminals twice over. The Reformers holding
fast to the doctrine of Church and State forced this through infant baptism
(infant baptism is pagan in origin).
Romans 12:2 And be not
conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and
adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?
whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
The famous Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli stated “Nothing
grieves me more than that at the present I have to
baptise children, for I know it ought not to
be done" he also states "… If however, I were to
terminate the practice then I fear I would lose my
prebend.” He affirmed: “I
leave baptism untouched, I call it neither right or
wrong; if we were
to baptise as Christ instituted it then we would not
baptise any person until he has reached the years of
discretion; for I find it nowhere written that infant
baptism is to be practiced.” He concludes:
“However, one must practice infant baptism
so as not to offend our fellow men."
(Verduin, Reformers and Their Stepchildren, 198/9)
One thousand years of Churches@of@Christ in England - Traces of the Kingdom.
But even if we or an angel from Heaven
preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed. As
we said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel to you beside
what you have received, let him be accursed.
the letter written by Paul of Tarsus to the Galatian churches, dated approximately 53/56
AD (Gal 1:8,9)
of the little chapel that sits on the bridge in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England where in
the 1650s for a few months a 'church of Christ' met before moving to a house
preacher, Henry Denne, was imprisoned twice for baptising by immersion believers for
remission of their sins. Later his son John continued to work with the St.
Ives Church of Christ
and their elders.
James Bainham, by
profession a barrister, preached at the Bow Lane (London) Church of Christ, was
after torture burned for preaching the gospel, in 1532.
Bainham, as did those before taught the
necessity of baptism for the remission of sins (by immersion) after the
preaching of the gospel and repentance.
Picture from a woodcut
in Foxes book of martyrs, 1684 edition.
A Web Site devoted to autonomous congregations
who baptised believers for the forgiveness of sins whereby they were added to
the church of our Lord - The church of Christ - Rom.16:16.
This is a brief history of those churches in Great Britain and Europe
before the American Restoration Movement.
About the Author, Keith Sisman
Keith is the preacher at the
Cambridge City Church of Christ, the congregation is active on the campus of the
University City, for details of their outreach please
click herealong with pictures of the historic city.
To visit the congregation's
use the link below
I have been asked by
brethren about the possibly of a history tour to see some of the sites on this
web-site, I am working on an itinerary which may viewed by clicking on the logo
1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though
I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
That the trial of your faith, being much
more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might
be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial
which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Archie Watters in his History of the
British Churches@of@Christ (1948) wrote "The story of the Churches@of@Christ in Great
Britain is of particular value in correcting an error which has persisted for
some time that the movement is peculiarly American. Alexander@Campbell was at
considerable pains to point out the fact that the movement was as much native to
Britain as America."
Walter Crosthwaite was baptised at Ulverston, England. The late American brother, John
Allen Hudson, said of brother Crosthwaite in his book 'The Churches of Christ in
Great Britain (1948)', to have "saved the cause of our Lord
from complete defeat in Britain." It was from Walter Crosthwaite that the work
of training evangelists to prepare the church for the later part of the
twentieth century was undertaken. Brother Crosthwaite was born in Ulverston on October
30th, 1873. His father Joseph had started the Ulverston congregation in 1876 on
the 19th of March and was an elder there for many years.
The fellowship to which Joseph Crosthwaite belonged was the
churches of Christ which are known to have existed in the Furness Fells of
Northern England in the 1600s,
and those churches were in fellowship with other churches of Christ, which went
back many years earlier, this is a history of those churches.
Dr Robert Halley, Principle of New College, London
(congregational) wrote in 1869 in his work 'A History of Puritanism and
Nonconformity in Lancashire' of the Tottlebank Church of Christ, "It has been
disputed where was formed the first congregational church in England. Islington,
Yarmouth, Southwark, Dukinfield have claimed the honour. Among the fells of
Furness was founded the first Christian church in England. By Christian I mean
here not congregational, not Presbyterian, not Episcopal, not Baptist, but
simply Christian in its unrestricted sense - Christian not sectarian, Catholic
not denominational, a church of people acknowledged as Christians and nothing
else. A poor ejected Minister from over the sands had the wisdom and grace to
form such a church, and the poor mountaineers of his neighbourhood had the
piety firmly to adhere to it and long sustain it."
Dr Halley was wrong, such churches in the
Furness Fells pre-existed the Tottlebank congregation.
clergyman, Dr Daniel Featly, (who was one of the translators of the King James
@Bible) wrote in 1645 of the Churches of Christ
meeting in London and elsewhere in his work the 'Dippers Dipt', took
those congregations back to 1525 when he quotes from them "That baptism ought to
be received by none, but such as can give a good account of their faith; and in
case any have been baptized in their infancy, that they ought to he re-baptized
after they come to years of discretion, before they are to be admitted to the
Church of Christ." These churches in the 1600s were in communication with other churches
of Christ in America, nearly two hundred years before Campbell!
text from Featly's 1646 edition, taken from page 20 of the Dippers Dipt.
an enemy of the Lord's church,
states there were members of the Church of Christ, in London, that they had
existed in England during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, James I! These
congregations existed separately from the Church of England and dismissed infant
baptism, baptising those who could give an account. Featly confirmed
these congregations immersed for the remission of sins (Dippers Dipt), from
elsewhere we know they were congregational and opposed Calvinism, being "Free-Willers."
was wrong on one account, such congregations existed prior to 1525, being
1449-1455 Reginald Pecock, sometime bishop of Chichester wrote
his most famous work, 'Represser of over-much weeting
[blaming] of the Clergie' the first major theological work after
the Conquest (1066) to be written in the vernacular English. The'Represser' was a refutation of the Lollards, who called
themselves Christians, and the church , the church of Christ, who
baptised believers by immersion for the remission of sins. The
first major theological work written in English after the Norman
Conquest of 1066 was to oppose the Church of Christ. Pecock, who
held views similar to the later Anglican Church died a heretic
at Thorney Abbey about five years after his 'Represser'
was written. His sin? The use reason against those Christians
termed Lollards who called themselves the church of Christ.
text from the 'Represser of over-much weeting of the Clergie'.
In 1529, Simon Fish a barrister by profession and one of the
preachers at the Bow Lane Church of Christ (London) wrote his
work, titled 'The Summe of the Holye Scripture.' The book was
printed in Latin and English over several editions. The title
page reads 'The Summe of the Holye Scripture and ordinary of the
Christian teaching the true Christian faith by which we be all
justified. And of the virtue of baptism after the teaching of
the Gospel and of the apostles with an information how all
estates should live according the Gospel.'
Fish's book teaches baptism by immersion for the remission of
sins. For a time Fish was friends with Henry 8th and his wife,
the queen, Anne Boleyn, advising on the Reformation until Henry
realised Fish was seeking Restoration, not Reformation! Fish was
a close friend of another member of the church of Christ,
William Tyndale, the famous Bible translator. Fish with others
through queen Anne getting the scriptures into the court of
Henry. A perfectly dangerous thing to do, Fish fortunately dying
of the plague a year later, his wife marrying James
Bainham being made a widow twice when he died in the flames of
persecution in 1532.
Photograph of the church of Christ meeting house at
Monksthorpe, disguised as a barn, the little wooden door above the windows was
to allow the preacher to escape if soldiers came to arrest the congregation.
Without a preacher, the congregation could not be arrested as the law required
the preacher to be caught. If caught, the preacher and the congregation could
stave to death in prison. The little meeting house is now classed as Baptist. It
was built in 1701. Below, the outdoor baptismal pool, now bricked would have
appeared originally as a pond and being outside the building would not have
raised suspicion. The website author is pictured in the pool with the meeting
One question often asked about the
churches of Christ is; have there always been congregations meeting like
ourselves before the time of Thomas and Alexander Campbell?The answer is Yes, as this survey will seek to
Sources used in this history include
those at the University Library, Cambridge (over six million books) and the British
Library, London (over thirteen million books).
Appreciation is acknowledged to the
librarians for their time in locating books and manuscripts, many which have not seen the
light of day for many years.
Thanks is also due to my wife Sarah,
for reading and correcting the manuscript.
The New Testament Church is not
a new church, for it was founded on the first Pentecost after the resurrection, nearly two thousand years ago.It has continued since wherever faithful brethren
This web site does not propose a continuous succession, for
the church to exist it requires nothing more than faithful men keeping to
the word of God (Mat. 13:1-23).
One possible objection to this survey
is the question, how could people without our learning and knowledge come to our
understanding?The answer has to be
that it is not our understanding but the plain teaching of scripture that these Christians
came to understand, and obey.They lived in
societies which had far greater spiritual values than the materialism of today.Divorce, evolution, denominations, the instrument and so on were not problems to them as they are to us.Likewise they rejected the traditions of
Catholicism which left them with the Bible as their only guide.It was to Christ and His Word to which they
submitted.To suggest that Christianity died
out in the second and third centuries only to be restored in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries is simply too horrible to contemplate.
This survey is an account of
those Christians who throughout time chose to serve the Lord and not to follow after the
traditions of man.Through the writers and
historians of the Catholic church we can read of the charges made against these Christians
and the penalties meted out to them.This
account is not a history of the church in general, nor a defence of the New Testament
church, other excellent books are easily available and are listed for this in the
endnotes.This survey should therefore be
regarded as an addition to other widely available works.
The New Testament of our Lord makes
it quite clear that the church would soon fall into apostasy, the responsibility for
keeping the church pure would be for individual congregations and Christians using the
Word of God.
The charges made against
Christians through time can be paraphrased as follows;
1/ Rejection of infant baptism, their
defence was that infants are without sin and that a person through their own choice should
decide whether they wish to be baptised and wash away their sins, proclaiming the message
of Gods grace and the free will of man.
2/ Rejection of the Eucharist as a
sacrifice, their defence was that the Lords supper was not a sacrifice but a
memorial to be taken on the first day of the week.
3/ Rejection of the Old Testament and
certain New Testament passages, their defence was that they held all the scriptures
sacred, but the Word of God needed to be rightly divided, the formal Priesthood of the Old
Testament did not apply in the Christian era was one example.
4/ Rejection of church
buildings and altars, their defence was that any place was a suitable place of Worship.
5/ Rejection of idols and
images, their defence was that this practice was contrary to the Word of God.
6/ Rejection of sprinkling or pouring
as a mode of baptism, their defence was that immersion was commanded in the Word of God.
7/ Rejection of a separate priesthood
and clergy, their defence was that all were equal in Christ, proclaiming the 'Universal
Priesthood of Believers.
8/ Rejection of prayers for the dead,
holy days and good works (without faith, Ephesians 2:8-10 ), their defence
was that these were contrary to the Word of God.
9/ Rejection of celibacy, the defence
was that this was contrary to the Word of God.
10/ Rejection of the hierarchy of
Bishops, the defence was that congregations were autonomous, being overseen by a plurality
of Elders (Bishops).
11/ Another accusation made time and
time again was the crime of heresy of Manichaeism, which goes back to a heretic named
Manes or Mani who died around 276.This
charge has always been strongly denied, evidence suggests that this was a contrived charge
to gain quick conviction.One problem the
authorities have always had with true believers who use the scriptures as a justification
was that their defence could be seen publicly, therefore charges of Gnosticism and
Manichaeism were often bought to gain a fast conviction, usually followed by death by
12/ Witchcraft, especially for women
including the crime of flying on broomsticks.The
penalty for this was burning.
Did early churches of
Christ use the instrument for music in their assembly?No, they did not.The instrument problem is a recent one and does not affect the time period we are
looking at, having only become common place since the late 1800s.
Such were the complaints made and
such was the defence (a return to scripture as the authority for the church and the
Christian).Their defence by scripture was
rejected by the authorities and banned.The
traditions of the Catholic church would set the standard and many thousands died because
they refused to obey the Pope.
The writer believes the Bible to be
the very Word of God revealed and made available for all mankind.The writer has rejected modern (and not so
modern) evolutionary theories believing in the Genesis account of six day creation less
than 10,000 years ago.This reflects in the
time periods and conclusions made of pre-Roman Celtic and Scandinavian Europe.
Neither statements can change the
ultimate conclusions reached as these are dependent on known history since the time of
Christ and the Bible.
For many people today when presented
with the numerous Christian denominations are totally confused, and rightly so. Calvinism and Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses and
Mormons, Anglicans and Baptists, and many, many more, in fact hundreds of
Christian denominations claim to hold to Biblical truth, yet their doctrines
(as their opponents will happily point out) contradict sound Bible teaching.Yet in the beginning there was one church based
on the teaching of Christ through His apostles, as written and handed down through the
Bible.So how has this confusion come about
and when did it happen?This survey will
attempt to show how this has happened, the struggle of Christians who were faithful in
opposing this, and lastly to show that it is possible still to Worship God in the manner
that He expects.
In fact in view of all of this
confusion the writer believes that the only way to get back to the truth is to use the
Bible, in seeking answers about the Christian Faith.It would take a lifetime to check each and every denomination and to work
out the history of their particular doctrines, it is far easier and safer to go to the
Bible direct and to ignore the teachings and traditions of men.
In the Bible the inspired writers
claim that Jesus is none other than the Christ, God Himself.The New Testament teaches that salvation is
through Christ, so all mankind needs and is obliged to check these statements found in
Holy Scripture.And we must reach the right
conclusion, for if the Bible is right and we get it wrong we will spend eternity outside
of Heaven and outside of the fellowship of God.Clearly
the most important task of any responsible person is to check the claims made in the Bible
and to act accordingly.
The people who are written about wore
no name other than Christian.For
convenience in this study we will use the same term and refer to the congregations who met
together to Worship the Lord as churches of Christ.This description was given in Pauls letter
to the Romans in chapter sixteen verse sixteen.The
term church of Christ is a common designation made in the English language
referring to those churches who are in Christ.
The 'church of Christ' is none other
than Christians who make up the body of Christ, His spiritual Kingdom on Earth.
This work is supported by The
Anthony McNulty Fund for evangelism and Christian knowledge, and book sales.
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